In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

book reviews91 saved the Union; and to the editors, for making this rich primary source available. We can look forward to Kohl's forthcoming history ofthe Irish Brigade. Michael B. Chesson University of Massachusetts at Boston Ghostsof the Confederacy: Defeat, the Lost Cause, andthe Emergence of the New South, 1865 to 1913. By Gaines M. Foster. (New York: Oxford University Press, 1987. Pp. x, 306. $29.95.) Gaines Foster's study ofthe development of the theme of the Lost Cause is an insightful and suggestive exploration of the southern reaction to defeat in the half-century after Gettysburg. Taking issue with previous interpretation which treat the Lost Cause as civil religion or myth, he forcefully argues that it can best be understood as an evolving tradition which enabled white southerners to come to terms with the verdict of Appomattox while preserving their honor and integrity. Rather than challenge the consequences of an emerging industrial economy, as did the Farmer's Alliances, veterans' organizations provided their members with an opportunity for psychological escape by creating a nostalgic past which offered stability and reassurance in a changing world. Once the adjustment from Old South to New South had been made, the Lost Cause lost much of its function, remaining as part of a southern identity emphasizing defiance and distinctiveness for their own sake. Concentrating on the organizations, institutions, and publications which propagated the Confederate tradition, Foster traces how the nature of the Lost Cause changed over time. In the 1870s, a group of Virginians led by Jubal A. Early attempted to define the tradition in terms which justified the cause, to sanctify its leader (Robert E. Lee), and to explain defeat in terms ofbetrayal, error, and the North's overwhelming superiority in men and material. While others, notably Thomas L. Connelly , have examined the thesis propounded by this group, Foster prefers to stress the lack of public support and the futility of a debate which sought scapegoats and refused to accept defeat. Not until the 1880s with the emergence ofveterans' organizations, most notably the United Confederate Veterans, under the leadership of John B. Gordon and others who embraced the coming of the New South, did a broad crosssection of southerners celebrate the Confederacy in terms of the shared experience of war and the satisfaction ofhonorable service. Uneasy about the impact of industrialism, they sought refuge in warm memories and war stories. Such themes also facilitated sectional reconciliation with a North willing to concede southern honor and integrity, paving the way for the reestablishment of national pride. Southern support for American intervention in Cuba and the Phillippines casts doubt upon C. Vann Woodward 's musings about whether southerners could draw upon their expe- 92CIVIL WAR HISTORY rience of defeat to offer a unique perspective about American mission and omnipotence. Indeed, one can draw revealing and instructive comparisons between the southern reaction to defeat and Americans' coming to terms with the Vietnam debacle. Some reservations remain. Foster's assertion that thenature of the appeal of the Lost Cause changed over time could have been bolstered through the application of content analysis and quantitative comparisons of the topics covered in Southern Historical Society Publications with The Confederate Veteran. Although the Virginians' efforts at Confederate "revitalization" or redemption may have failed, many of the historical interpretations they advanced, including the explanation that defeat was simply a matter of might overwhelming right, proved quite durable; until recently their concerns set the terms of the debate over much of Civil War military history. A comparison of membership of the UCV with that of the Farmer's Alliances would have been suggestive, since Foster argues that the Lost Cause and the Populist appeal offered alternative responses to the advent of industrial capitalism in the South. Were these organizations actually competing for southerners' allegiances , or did they draw upon different segments of the population? These caveats should not overshadow Foster's achievement in offering an interpretation which successfully places the Lost Cause at the center of the psychological transition between the Old and the New South. One closes the book wonderingwhy historians have failed to pay as much attention to northerners' historical consciousness about the Civil War. What did Appomattox...

pdf

Additional Information

ISSN
1533-6271
Print ISSN
0009-8078
Pages
pp. 91-92
Launched on MUSE
2012-01-04
Open Access
No
Back To Top

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. Without cookies your experience may not be seamless.